The Companion

Home Index FAQ Encyclopaedia Timeline Songs Gallery E-mail

Countdown to the
30th Anniversary of
Ziggy Stardust!
May 2002
Special Feature

May 2002's Special Feature counted down to the 6th June 2002 which was the 30th anniversary of the release of THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS.  This feature outlined the background to the album and listed the major influences on what would become one of the most popular characters ever in rock history - ZIGGY STARDUST!

"Ziggy Stardust" was the fictional rock superstar in David Bowie's album THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972). "Ziggy Stardust" was also the first fully-fledged alter-ego adopted by David Bowie in his career. In 1972 Bowie took to introducing himself at concerts as Ziggy Stardust and his band as The Spiders From Mars.

"Ziggy really set the pattern for my future work. Ziggy was my Martian messiah who twanged a guitar. He was a simplistic character. I saw him as very simple....fairly like the character Newton I was to do in the film [The Man Who Fell to Earth] later on. Someone who was dropped down here, got brought down to our way of thinking and ended up destroying himself. I fell for Ziggy too. It was quite easy to become obsessed night and day with the character. I became Ziggy Stardust. David Bowie went totally out the window. Everybody was convincing me that I was a Messiah, especially on that first American tour. I got hopelessly lost in the fantasy." - Bowie 

The Ziggy Stardust era (1971-1973) was one of the busiest and most successful periods of David Bowie's continuing career and one in which he moved from relative obscurity to true superstar status. In just over two years, Bowie released three superb rock albums: HUNKY DORY (1971), THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972) and ALADDIN SANE (1973); embarked on three tours of the UK, two of the US and one of Japan; produced the classic rock albums ALL THE YOUNG DUDES (1972) for Mott the Hoople, TRANSFORMER (1972) for Lou Reed and remixed the equally classic RAW POWER (1973) for Iggy Pop and the Stooges.  From June 1972 to late 1973 (the year he spent a record total of 182 weeks on the album charts), he was the biggest act in the UK, with eight UK Top 10 singles and four Top 5 albums (with three Number 1's). Just prior to leaving the character of Ziggy Stardust behind forever, he released the respected Sixties tribute album - PINUPS (1973) and staged a rock musical called The 1980 Floor Show for the American NBC TV show - The Midnight Special.

The name "Ziggy" came from a London tailor's shop that Bowie saw from a train one day. In an interview he said that it was his private joke because Ziggy Stardust was going to be largely about clothes. It is also likely to be a derivative of Iggy (Iggy Pop) and possibly Twiggy (the British model) who appeared with him on the cover of PINUPS (1973). It was also, as Bowie later told Rolling Stone, "one of the few Christian names I could find beginning with the letter 'Z'." Another possible source of the Ziggy name came from Bowie's connection with Marc Bolan in the late 1960s. "Zinc Alloy" was the name that Bolan intended to use if his then current group "Marc Bolan & T.Rex" failed. But it never transpired. Later Bolan would parody the Ziggy album with his own called "Zinc Alloy and the Hidden Riders Of Tomorrow" (1974). So was Ziggy also a combination of "Zinc" + "Iggy"?

The name "Stardust" came from an eccentric American Country and Western singer called Norman Carl Odom  who went by the stage name "The Legendary Stardust Cowboy" (also known as "Ledge" to his friends) and who was on the Mercury label with Bowie in 1969. His one claim for fame was a novelty song called "Paralysed" which reached the Top 200 of Billboard (and which Bowie bought!). He appeared on the TV show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In as a serious act but the audience thought he was very funny, and devastated he walked off the stage and cried.

"He was a kind of Wild Man Fisher character; he was on guitar and he had a one-legged trumpet player, and in his biography he said, "Mah only regret is that mah father never lived to see me become a success." I just liked the Stardust bit because it was so silly....he's the guy I got the name "Stardust" from. For me, he's up there with people like Wild Man Fisher - it's the original outsider music. Music by people probably not playing with a full deck. He played guitar, and he had a drummer and a one-legged trumpet player. They assembled their music without any awareness that there are supposed to be rules to follow. And so they go in directions that wouldn't occur to even a semi-trained musician. And it's such a freeing exercise, listening to them commit to those performances with full integrity - knowing that they are not joking" - Bowie

Bowie says that he based the character of Ziggy Stardust largely on the eccentric British rocker "Vince Taylor" (real name Brian Holden and also known as the "French Presley") who moved to France and worked as an Elvis impersonator. Born in 1939 in Middlesex, Taylor's family migrated to the US when he was seven years old.   In 1957 Taylor returned to London as a leather rocker.  His best known work is his 1959 single "Brand New Cadillac" which was covered by the Clash on "London Calling" (1977). Bowie first encountered Taylor at the Giaconda on Tottenham Court Road in 1966.

"I met (Vince Taylor) a few times in the mid-Sixties and I went to a few parties with him. He was out of his gourd. Totally flipped. The guy was not playing with a full deck at all. He used to carry maps of Europe around with him, and I remember him opening a map outside Charing Cross tube station, putting it on the pavement and kneeling down with a magnifying glass. He pointed out all the sites where UFOs were going to land. He was the inspiration for Ziggy. Vince Taylor was a rock n roll star from the Sixties who was slowly going crazy. Finally, he fired his band and went on-stage one night in a white sheet. He told the audience to rejoice, that he was Jesus. They put him away."" - Bowie 

"No one quite knows what unhooked Vince Taylor's mind, though drugs and drink did form part of his daily diet. Before spouting mysticism and declaring himself to be Jesus, which he was wont do by 1967, Vince Taylor was a leather-clad rocker who'd been an Elvis-like hero to French audiences earlier in the decade. A Jekyll and Hyde character, Taylor's behaviour had grown increasingly erratic by 1965. Two years later, a bizarre tour ended abruptly when he sacked his band on stage and was almost lynched by his audience. (Gratuitous comparison with the Fall's Mark E. Smith here). Bowie has more recently acknowledged Vince Taylor as an inspiration for his Ziggy Stardust character. "He always stayed in my mind as an example of what can happen in rock'n'roll," he told Paul Du Noyer. As, no doubt, did the fates of later Bowie Heroes, Syd Barrett and Peter Green..." -  Mark Paytress - Record Collector (June 1998)

In June 1972, the month that the Ziggy Stardust album was released, Vince Taylor had partially rebuilt his career in France and released an unsuccessful album called "Vince is Alive, Well and Rocking in Paris".  After spending much of his life in prisons and psychiatric institutions he died in 1991 in Switzerland at the age of 52.  He is buried in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Major Players and Influences

ARNOLD CORNS: From small acorns the massive Ziggy tree grew.  A 1971 Bowie band which provided the seeds of what would eventually become The Spiders from Mars.  This band consisted of Bowie on guitar and vocals, his costume designer Freddi Burretti (stage name Rudi Valentino) as lead vocalist, Mick Ronson on guitar, Trevor Bolder on bass, Mick Woodmansey on drums and Mark Carr Pritchard on guitar. An earlier version also had another two of Burretti's friends, Polak De Somogyl (bass) and St. Laurent Ralph Broadbent (drums) from Dulwich College who played in a college band called Runk. This collaboration released three tracks - early versions of "Moonage Daydream" and "Hang Onto Yourself" and the song "Man in the Middle" (written by Mark Carr Pritchard) while a fourth track "Looking for a Friend" was unreleased until 1986. While Burretti is credited as lead vocalist, his contribution is barely audible with Bowie's vocals dominating on all tracks. In 1971 Burretti was a nineteen year old clothes designer/tailor and close friend of Bowie from The Sombrero - a trendy London gay discotheque. Burretti was responsible for most of the Ziggy Stardust costumes. Bowie's unsuccessful plan at this time was for Burretti to be the next "Mick Jagger." Freddie Burretti died on May 11th 2001 in Paris aged 49. The name Arnold Corns was inspired by Bowie's favourite Pink Floyd song "Arnold Layne" and was necessary because as Bowie could not use his own name (being contracted to Mercury at the time). Ultimately, aside from trialling two eventual Ziggy songs, the band Arnold Corns came to nothing, although at one stage an album titled LOOKING FOR RUDI was planned.  However, its influence regarding Ziggy Stardust was immense.

KEN SCOTT: Engineer on  SPACE ODDITY (1969) and THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD  and co-producer on HUNKY DORY (1971). Co-producer of THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972). Ken Scott was also the producer of a number of Beatles songs and had trained alongside George Martin at Abbey Road studios.  Bowie has said that Scott was his own "George Martin" (See The Recording of Ziggy Stardust by Ken Scott).

MARC BOLAN: Singer/songwriter and friend/competitor of Bowie and a leading Seventies exponent of Glam Rock. Bolan was the guitarist on the original single version of Bowie's "The Prettiest Star" (1970) which can be found on SOUND + VISION I (1989) and the "The Best of Bowie 1969-1974."   At the Rainbow Theatre concert on 19/20 August 1972, Bowie sang "Lady Stardust" while projecting a picture of Marc Bolan on a large screen, implying the song was about him, which apparently Bolan and his fans did not appreciate (the lyrics being seen as pitying). Bolan died in a car crash in 1977, only a couple of weeks after Bowie appeared with him on the set of his "Marc" TV show.

"Marc Bolan had been an old adversary of Bowie's since the mid-60s, when both could be found in noted central London rock hangouts getting high on the whiff of celebrity. By 1971, Bolan was being hailed as the first Superstar of the new decade. Although he'd landed on the pop charts from an impeccable hippie background, Bolan was quickly perceived as a new kind of performer, someone who brought the glamour, the simplicity and the sex back into pop. His T.Rex sound harked back to the three-chord trick of vintage rock'n'roll, while his image was in stark contrast to the blue-jean rock that had cast a dull shadow over the legacy of psychedelia. What David Bowie brought to the early 70s was all this - and more. Unlike Bolan, who found change difficult when maintaining his long-fought for stardom was at stake, Bowie - as the song goes - made the concept of change the theme of his life. In that respect, he could earn at least some respect from the otherwise mistrustful progressive quarters. Which is why, unlike Bolan, Bowie sold albums and eventually broke in America, too. Bolan enjoyed his stardom; Bowie (or was it Ziggy?!) critiqued his." -  Mark Paytress - Record Collector (June 1998)

MICK ROCK: Photographer/journalist who originally interviewed Bowie for Rolling Stone. Rock became the one and only official Ziggy Stardust photographer and took many iconic pictures of Bowie including the infamous "electric blowjob" with Mick Ronson's guitar.  He also filmed the promotional videos for Space Oddity (1972), John, I'm Only Dancing (1972), The Jean Genie (1972) and Life On Mars? (1973).

"A WHILE AGO, I had occasion to reflect on this relationship: I was the man who framed Ziggy Stardust, and who, one singular afternoon, not so many manic years later realised that, in the end, Ziggy Stardust had framed me.  I was only the camera eye, but my vision would never be the same again ... " - Mick Rock

SYD BARRETT: Psychedelic leader of The Pink Floyd in the 1960s, Barrett was one of Bowie's heroes and his stage presence and sci-fi sounds were to be a major influence on Bowie's Ziggy Stardust character.  Bowie's friendship with the photographer Mick Rock had initially been sparked because he was a friend of Barrett's. Bowie confided in Mick Rock at the time that his three greatest artistic and musical influences were Iggy Pop, Lou Reed, and Barrett. Bowie, who had seen Barrett play at The Marquee, named his pre-Ziggy band "Arnold Corns" after Barrett's "Arnold Layne" single and later recorded an excellent version of Barrett's "See Emily Play" on his PinUps (1973) album.

"Syd Barrett with his white white face and his black eyeliner all around his eyes - this strange presence singing in front of a band that was using light shows. I thought, 'Wow! He's a bohemian, a poet, and he's in a rock band!'" - Bowie (From "A Saucerful of Secrets" by Nicholas Schaeffner)

"I used to hang out at The Marquee with Marc Bolan, even before we decided we wanted to become famous. We became rivals for a couple of years then we became friends again. We were incredibly inspired by Syd Barrett of Pink Floyd. There was a kind of space mysticism around Syd that we both interpreted in different ways. I saw Pink Floyd at The Marquee and was inspired to write musicals. So I ended up performing a Pink Floyd like version of 'Chim Chiminee' - very odd!! - Bowie

A CLOCKWORK ORANGE: Bowie has described his Ziggy Stardust concerts as being like the 1971 film - CLOCKWORK ORANGE - but without the violence. Bowie used part of the film's soundtrack (Beethoven's 9th Symphony adapted and performed by Walter Carlos (now known as Wendy Carlos, following a sex-change operation) and Rachel Enkind) - to open his Ziggy Stardust concerts. It can be heard playing over the PA system on the film/video of ZIGGY STARDUST - THE MOTION PICTURE (1983) and Bowie is shown whistling a few bars before he takes the stage. In 1990 Bowie also used it to open his Sound + Vision concerts. If you own the soundtrack - the music used starts @ 2.32 into the fourth track entitled "Ninth Symphony, Second Movement - Abridged. In some of the early Ziggy concerts Bowie dressed in a similar manner to Alec (the anti-hero of the film) wearing white rolled-up trousers, boots and codpiece. At one stage he even considered wearing a bowler hat like Alec.  The lyrics to "Suffragette City" also show some influence with mention made of a "droog" (...droogie don't crash here...) which was the term for a futuristic thug in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.

"Most of the look for Ziggy was basically from the Kubrick film - it was Clockwork Orange and the jumpsuits in that movie I thought were just wonderful.   I liked the malicious kind of malevolent, viscous quality of those four guys although the aspects of violence themselves didn't turn me on particularly. So I wanted to put another spin on that, so I went to Liberty's or places like that in London - probably a shop on Tottenham Court Road is more like it - but Liberty sounds better. I picked out all these very florid, bright quilted kind of materials and so that took the edge off the violent look of those suits but still retained that type of terrorist "we-are-ready-for-action" kind of look and the wrestling boots with laces on - but I changed the colour and made them greens and blues and stuff like that. So that was the basic look but instead of just having one eyelash I went the whole hog and had two eyelashes.  Even the inset photographs of the inside sleeve for Ziggy owed a lot to the Malcolm McDowell look from the Clockwork Orange poster - the sort of sinister looking photograph somewhere between a beetle, not a Beatle person, but a real beetle and violence. The whole idea of having this phony-speak thing - mock Anthony Burgess-Russian speak that drew on Russian words and put them into the English language, and twisted old Shakespearean words around - this kind of fake language ... fitted in perfectly with what I was trying to do in creating this fake world or this world that hadn't happened yet.  It was like trying to anticipate a society that hadn't happened.  The whole idea of droogs and that came straight from the Burgess take." - Bowie (1993)

LOU REED: American singer, songwriter (ex Velvet Underground) and close Bowie-friend. Bowie produced his album TRANSFORMER (1972) and Reed appeared at the Ziggy Stardust concert at the Royal Festival Hall on 8 July 1972, joining Bowie in singing Reed's songs "Waiting for The Man", "Sweet Jane" and "White Light/White Heat." Bowie has stated that there were two main influences behind the Ziggy Stardust character - one was a meeting with a "fake" Lou Reed in the early 1970s and the other was the eccentric rocker "Vince Taylor"

"There were maybe two incidents which created the Ziggy Stardust thing for me - or put it firmly in my mind that it was an interesting way to go.  One was the fact that I went to see the Velvet Underground when I first got to the States in 1970. At the end of the show I went back and sat down and we talked for about half an hour.  Then I told my friend a few days later that I got the chance to speak with Lou and you know it was wonderful and we talked ... He said "No... no...Lou left the band last year.  You were talking to Doug Yule - his replacement - who is almost his spitting image." I said "You're kidding me!- but he sat there and talked as though he was Lou and he was talking about how he wrote "Waiting For The Man" and all these things!"  And it was at that point that I realised that, at the time, it didn't matter to me if this was the real one or a fake one.  So that was one half of the puzzle that could be the Ziggy Stardust type figure - is he real or is he artificial?  And the other one was a guy called Vince Taylor..." - David Bowie (2000)

JAPAN: Bowie was fascinated by traditional Japanese theatre and adopted elements of Japanese fashion and makeup for his Ziggy Stardust character.  Japanese fashion designer Kansai Yamamoto, whom Bowie had met in New York, was commissioned to create nine Aladdin Sane era stage costumes based on traditional Japanese dramas, and he presented these to Bowie in Tokyo in 1973.  Some of these simulated Noh and Kabuki theatre by being able to be torn apart, revealing yet another costume underneath. While in Japan, the Kansai Yamamoto designed a costume variously called "Spring Rain" or "The Rites of Spring" which had to be taken back to Kansai's shop in Tokyo and repaired often due to hard wear after Bowie's mobbed performances. Another Japanese acquaintance, Masayoshi Sukita, photographed him in London in August 1972, and February 1973 in New York.

"Ziggy Stardust...was very much Japanese Theatre meets American Science Fiction" - Bowie (1978)

ANGIE BOWIE: Angie met Bowie in 1969 when she was 19 years old. They married in March 1970. Along with Tony DeFries she is credited as being a major influence in Bowie's rise to fame. David and Angie formally divorced on 8 February 1980.

"She's so heavily responsible for his fame, she used to hang lights and pick his costumes; she really worked hard...was basically his road manager." - Leee Black Childers

"I hope [the Ziggy Stardust Era] achieved the worldwide recognition of David Bowie as a major artist and songwriter. That was my brief. It also changed the performance and presentation of popular music. Sound, lights and costumes became a necessity. Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was a vehicle to express the 70s angst. The subject matter was gender and androgyny accented with enough Sci-Fi and galactic references to keep commerce away from the incubating thought until it was formed enough to jump onto the public awareness and run screaming towards the media! I just liked seeing boys look pretty and singing about something. All the perks and advantages of hindsight!" - Angie Bowie

THE SPIDERS FROM MARS: David Bowie/Ziggy Stardust's three-piece rock band from 1971 to mid 1973, however they were only officially known by this name following the album's release in June 1972.   Bowie has said that the inspiration for the name came when he was writing the song "Ziggy Stardust".  The band consisted of Mick (Ronno) Ronson (guitar, piano and vocals) Mick (Woody) Woodmansey (drums) Trevor Bolder (bass)

"They played the part perfectly. I actually sort of picked them for that. They were, at the time, the number one spacey punk rock band. They were absolutely archetypes. All of them....Everyone was absolutely right - right out a cartoon book.... they were great musicians" - Bowie (1976)

MICK RONSON: Was the band leader of The Spiders From Mars, a classically trained musician and highly-skilled guitar exponent (Bowie says "He was my Jeff Beck"). Ronson's first appearance on a Bowie record was on the single "Memory of a Free Festival Part 1/Memory of a Free Festival Part 2"(Mercury 6052 026 - 12 June 1970). He played on all Bowie albums from THE MAN WHO SOLD THE WORLD (1970) to PINUPS (1973) and on one track of Bowie's album BLACK TIE WHITE NOISE (1993) playing guitar on "I Feel Free". He played guitar, piano, sang and co-arranged THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS (1972) with Bowie and also co-produced Lou Reed's TRANSFORMER (1972) with Bowie. He died of liver cancer in 1993. A memorial concert was organized in London on 29 April, 1994 (the one-year anniversary of his death) at the Hammersmith Odeon.

IGGY POP: American singer/songwriter and close friend of Bowie. Bowie remixed the album RAW POWER (1973) after an early poor attempt at mixing by Iggy Pop. Bowie was also to rescue Iggy Pop from an American mental institution in the mid Seventies and then resurrect his career by co-writing and producing THE IDIOT (1976) and LUST FOR LIFE (1977).

"1972 was a potent year for rock n’ roll, for London, and for me. I saw (and photographed), the rise of Ziggy Stardust, Mott the Hoople’s All the Young Dudes, the surfacing of Lou Reed with the Bowie/ Mick Ronson produced Transformer (and its key cut Walk on the Wild Side), and Raw Power (which wasn’t released until 1973, but was recorded, mixed and photographed in 1972). I don’t recall it like it was yesterday, but I do recall certain shiny moments in a year that transformed all our lives. Iggy & the Stooges....Now therein lies a tale or two or three. Genius comes in strange packages. I knew that the Punkmeister had it the first time I heard the immortal couplet: “1969 OK All across the USA” Such resonance in such minimal form; fuck, I knew this guy was a pure poet. David Bowie introduced me to Jim Osterberg at a welcome party he had organised for Jim’s first UK visit at some little veggie restaurant off Westbourne Grove, where everyone sat on the floor, in the early summer of 1972. David had often riffed enthusiastically to me about the Ig, who in many ways was the inspiration for (Z)iggy Stardust. He swapped tales of Iggy for stories of Syd Barrett, an intimate of mine." - Mick Rock (1999)

TONY DEFRIES: Bowie's unconventional manager who in 1970 promised to make Bowie into a star within two years. DeFries is generally credited as being the main driving force behind Bowie's rapid move to superstar status. He considered that Bowie was potentially bigger then Dylan and marketed Bowie as a superstar before he was actually one - giving him stretch limousines to be driven around in, chauffeurs, bodyguards and lavish press interviews at London's top hotels with champagne and caviar etc. All of this while Bowie rented his Haddon Hall flat at Beckenham for 7 a week. DeFries established the MainMan organisation to manage Bowie having previously been a partner in Gem, a management, production and record company.

"My personal opinion is that DeFries was brilliant.  He would be the perfect manager if he could work for someone other than himself; if he was not out all the time for himself.  He knows exactly how far to bend the law.  You will find lots of people he has pushed to one side and left.  I was one of them." - Ken Scott (1999)

ANDY WARHOL: New York pop artist Andy Warhol, who along with the Velvet underground was a major influence on Bowie. Bowie later played Warhol in the film Basquiet.

"Like Warhol, Bowie relished the contemporary themes of celebrity and disaster, which would climax so spectacularly in the Ziggy Stardust project. He also took on board the artist's idea of star 'construction', which ran counter to the classical view of 'an artist'. In Warhol's world, not only art but the artist himself was artifice." Mark Paytress - Record Collector (June 1998)

---This page last modified: 10 Dec 2018---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)